Part 3 out of 6
assailed her, but step by step crept across the room, opened the door,
and tottered out into the hallway. There was no sound in the flat.
Presumably Kilfane's man had retired, or perhaps he, too, was a
Rita's fur coat hung upon the rack, and although her fingers appeared
to have lost all their strength and her arm to have become weak as
that of an infant, she succeeded in detaching the coat from the hook.
Not pausing to put it on, she opened the door and stumbled out on to
the darkened landing. Whereas her first impulse had been to awaken
someone, preferably Sir Lucien, now her sole desire was to escape
She began to feel less dizzy, and having paused for a moment on the
landing, she succeeded in getting her coat on. Then she closed the
door as quietly as possible, and clutching the handrail began to grope
her way downstairs. There was only one flight, she remembered, and a
short passage leading to the street door. She reached the passage
without mishap, and saw a faint light ahead.
The fastenings gave her some trouble, but finally her efforts were
successful, and she found herself standing in deserted Duke Street.
There was no moon, but the sky was cloudless. She had no idea of the
time, but because of the stillness of the surrounding streets she knew
that it must be very late. She set out for her flat, walking slowly
and wondering what explanation she should offer if a constable
Oxford Street showed deserted as far as the eye could reach, and her
light footsteps seemed to awaken a hundred echoes. Having proceeded
for some distance without meeting anyone, she observed--and
experienced a childish alarm--the head-lights of an approaching car.
Instantly the idea of hiding presented itself to her, but so rapidly
did the big automobile speed along the empty thoroughfare that Rita
was just passing a street lamp as the car raced by, and she must
therefore have been clearly visible to the occupants.
Never for a moment glancing aside, Rita pressed on as quickly as she
could. Then her vague alarm became actual terror. She heard the brakes
being applied to the car, and heard the gritty sound of the tires upon
the roadway as the vehicle's headlong progress was suddenly checked.
She had been seen--perhaps recognized, and whoever was in the car
proposed to return to speak to her.
If her strength had allowed she would have run, but now it threatened
to desert her altogether and she tottered weakly. A pattering of
footsteps came from behind. Someone was running back to overtake her.
Recognizing escape to be impossible, Rita turned just as the runner
came up with her.
"Rita!" he cried, rather breathlessly. "Miss Dresden!"
She stood very still, looking at the speaker.
It was Monte Irvin.
As Irvin seized her hands and looked at her eagerly, half-fearfully,
Rita achieved sufficient composure to speak.
"Oh, Mr. Irvin," she said, and found that her voice was not entirely
normal, "what must you think--"
He continued to hold her hands, and:
"I think you are very indiscreet to be out alone at three o'clock in
the morning," he answered gently. "I was recalled to London by urgent
business, and returned by road--fortunately, since I have met you."
"How can I explain--"
"I don't ask you to explain--Miss Dresden. I have no right and no
desire to ask. But I wish I had the right to advise you."
"How good you are," she began, "and I--"
Her voice failed her completely, and her sensitive lips began to
tremble. Monte Irvin drew her arm under his own and led her back to
meet the car, which the chauffeur had turned and which was now
"I will drive you home," he said, "and if I may call in the morning. I
should like to do so."
Rita nodded. She could not trust herself to speak again. And having
placed her in the car, Monte Irvin sat beside her, reclaiming her hand
and grasping it reassuringly and sympathetically throughout the short
drive. They parted at her door.
"Good night," said Irvin, speaking very deliberately because of an
almost uncontrollable desire which possessed him to take Rita in his
arms, to hold her fast, to protect her from her own pathetic self and
from those influences, dimly perceived about her, but which
intuitively he knew to be evil.
"If I call at eleven will that be too early?"
"No," she whispered. "Please come early. There is a matinee tomorrow."
"You mean today," he corrected. "Poor little girl, how tired you will
be. Good night."
"Good night," she said, almost inaudibly.
She entered, and, having closed the door, stood leaning against it for
several minutes. Bleakness and nausea threatened to overcome her anew,
and she felt that if she essayed another step she must collapse upon
the floor. Her maid was in bed, and had not been awakened by Rita's
entrance. After a time she managed to grope her way to her bedroom,
where, turning up the light, she sank down helplessly upon the bed.
Her mental state was peculiar, and her thoughts revolved about the
journey from Oxford Street homeward. A thousand times she mentally
repeated the journey, speaking the same words over and over again, and
hearing Monte Irvin's replies.
In those few minutes during which they had been together her
sentiments in regard to him had undergone a change. She had always
respected Irvin, but this respect had been curiously compounded of the
personal and the mercenary; his well-ordered establishment at Prince's
Gate had loomed behind the figure of the man forming a pleasing
background to the portrait. Without being showy he was a splendid
"match" for any woman. His wife would have access to good society, and
would enjoy every luxury that wealth could procure. This was the
picture lovingly painted and constantly retouched by Rita's mother.
Now it had vanished. The background was gone, and only the man
remained; the strong, reserved man whose deep voice had spoken so
gently, whose devotion was so true and unselfish that he only sought
to shield and protect her from follies the nature of which he did not
even seek to learn. She was stripped of her vanity, and felt loathsome
and unworthy of such a love.
"Oh," she moaned, rocking to and fro. "I hate myself--I hate myself!"
Now that the victory so long desired seemed at last about to be won,
she hesitated to grasp the prize. One solacing reflection she had. She
would put the errors of the past behind her. Many times of late she
had found herself longing to be done with the feverish life of the
stage. Envied by those who had been her companions in the old chorus
days, and any one of whom would have counted ambition crowned could
she have played The Maid of the Masque, Rita thought otherwise. The
ducal mansions and rose-bowered Riviera hotels through which she moved
nightly had no charm for her; she sighed for reality, and had wearied
long ago of the canvas palaces and the artificial Southern moonlight.
In fact, stage life had never truly appealed to her--save as a means
to an end.
Again and yet again her weary brain reviewed the episodes of the night
since she had left Cyrus Kilfane's flat, so that nearly an hour had
elapsed before she felt capable of the operation of undressing.
Finally, however, she undressed, shuddering although the room was
warmed by an electric radiator. The weakness and sickness had left
her, but she was quite wide awake, although her brain demanded rest
from that incessant review of the events of the evening.
She put on a warm wrap and seated herself at the dressing-table,
studying her face critically. She saw that she was somewhat pale and
that she had an indefinable air of dishevelment. Also she detected
shadows beneath her eyes, the pupils of which were curiously
contracted. Automatically, as a result of habit, she unlocked her
jewel-case and took out a tiny phial containing minute cachets. She
shook several out on to the palm of her hand, and then paused, staring
at her reflection in the mirror.
For fully half a minute she hesitated, then:
"I shall never close my eyes all night if I don't!" she whispered, as
if in reply to a spoken protest, "and I should be a wreck in the
Thus, in the very apogee of her resolve to reform, did she drive one
more rivet into the manacles which held her captive to Kazmah and
Upon a little spirit-stove stood a covered vessel containing milk,
which was placed there nightly by Rita's maid. She lighted the burner
and warmed the milk. Then, swallowing three of the cachets from the
phial, she drank the milk. Each cachet contained three decigrams of
malourea, the insidious drug notorious under its trade name of
She slept deeply, and was not awakened until ten o'clock. Her
breakfast consisted of a cup of strong coffee; but when Monte Irvin
arrived at eleven Rita exhibited no sign of nerve exhaustion. She
looked bright and charming, and Irvin's heart leapt hotly in his
breast at sight of her.
Following some desultory and unnatural conversation:
"May I speak quite frankly to you?" he said, drawing his chair nearer
to the settee upon which Rita was seated.
She glanced at him swiftly. "Of course," she replied. "Is it--about my
He shook his head, smiling rather sadly.
"That is only one phase of your rather feverish life, little girl," he
said. "I don't mean that I want to lecture you or reproach you. I only
want to ask you if you are satisfied?"
"Satisfied?" echoed Rita, twirling a tassel that hung from a cushion
"Yes. You have achieved success in your profession." He strove in vain
to banish bitterness from his voice. "You are a 'star,' and your
photograph is to be seen frequently in the smartest illustrated
papers. You are clever and beautiful and have hosts of admirers. But--
are you satisfied?"
She stared absently at the silk tassel, twirling it about her white
fingers more and more rapidly. Then:
"No," she answered softly.
Monte Irvin hesitated for a moment ere bending forward and grasping
"I am glad you are not satisfied," he whispered. "I always knew you
had a soul for something higher--better."
She avoided his ardent gaze, but he moved to the settee beside her and
looked into the bewitching face.
"Would it be a great sacrifice to give it all up?" he whispered in a
yet lower tone.
Rita shook her head, persistently staring at the tassel.
She gave him a swift, half-frightened glance, pressing her hands
against his breast and leaning, back.
"Oh, you don't know me--you don't know me!" she said, the good that
was in her touched to life by the man's sincerity. "I--don't deserve
"Rita!" he murmured. "I won't hear you say that!"
"You know nothing about my friends--about my life--"
"I know that I want you for my wife, so that I can protect you from
those 'friends.'" He took her in his arms, and she surrendered her
lips to him.
"My sweet little girl," he whispered. "I cannot believe it--yet."
But the die was cast, and when Rita went to the theatre to dress for
the afternoon performance she was pledged to sever her connection with
the stage on the termination of her contract. She had luncheon with
Monte Irvin, and had listened almost dazedly to his plans for the
future. His wealth was even greater than her mother had estimated it
to be, and Rita's most cherished dreams were dwarfed by the prospects
which Monte Irvin opened up before her. It almost seemed as though he
knew and shared her dearest ambitions. She was to winter beneath real
Southern palms and to possess a cruising yacht, not one of boards and
canvas like that which figured in The Maid of the Masque.
Real Southern palms, she mused guiltily, not those conjured up by
opium. That he was solicitous for her health the nature of his schemes
revealed. They were to visit Switzerland, and proceed thence to a
villa which he owned in Italy. Christmas they would spend in Cairo,
explore the Nile to Assouan in a private dahabiyeh, and return home
via the Riviera in time to greet the English spring. Rita's delicate,
swiftly changing color, her almost ethereal figure, her intense
nervous energy he ascribed to a delicate constitution.
She wondered if she would ever dare to tell him the truth; if she
ought to tell him.
Pyne came to her dressing-room just before the performance began. He
had telephoned at an early hour in the morning, and had learned from
her maid that Rita had come home safely and was asleep. Rita had
expected him; but the influence of Monte Irvin, from whom she had
parted at the stage-door, had prevailed until she actually heard Sir
Lucien's voice in the corridor. She had resolutely refrained from
looking at the little jewelled casket, engraved "From Lucy to Rita,"
which lay in her make-up box upon the table. But the imminence of an
ordeal which she dreaded intensely weakened her resolution. She
swiftly dipped a little nail-file into the white powder which the box
contained, and when Pyne came in she turned to him composedly.
"I am so sorry if I gave you a scare last night Lucy," she said. "But
I woke up feeling sick, and I had to go out into the fresh air."
"I was certainly alarmed," drawled Pyne, whose swarthy face looked
more than usually worn in the hard light created by the competition
between the dressing-room lamps and the grey wintry daylight which
crept through the windows. "Do you feel quite fit again?"
"Quite, thanks." Rita glanced at a ring which she had not possessed
three hours before. "Oh, Lucy--I don't know how to tell you--"
She turned in her chair, looking up wistfully at Pyne, who was
standing behind her. His jaw hardened, and his glance sought the white
hand upon which the costly gems glittered. He coughed nervously.
"Perhaps"--his drawling manner of speech temporarily deserted him; he
spoke jerkily--"perhaps--I can guess."
She watched him in a pathetic way, and there was a threat of tears in
her beautiful eyes; for whatever his earlier intentions may have been,
Sir Lucien had proved a staunch friend and, according to his own
peculiar code, an honorable lover.
"Is it--Irvin?" he asked jerkily.
Rita nodded, and a tear glistened upon her darkened lashes.
Sir Lucien cleared his throat again, then coolly extended his hand,
once more master of his emotions.
"Congratulations, Rita," he said. "The better man wins. I hope you
will be very happy."
He turned and walked quietly out of the dressing-room.
It was on the following Tuesday evening that Mrs. Sin came to the
theatre, accompanied by Mollie Gretna. Rita instructed that she should
be shown up to the dressing-room. The personality of this singular
woman interested her keenly. Mrs. Sin was well known in certain
Bohemian quarters, but was always spoken of as one speaks of a pet
vice. Not to know Mrs. Sin was to be outside the magic circle which
embraced the exclusively smart people who practiced the latest
The so-called artistic temperament is compounded of great strength and
great weakness; its virtues are whiter than those of ordinary people
and its vices blacker. For such a personality Mrs. Sin embodied the
idea of secret pleasure. Her bold good looks repelled Rita, but the
knowledge in her dark eyes was alluring.
"I arrange for you for Saturday night," she said. "Cy Kilfane is
coming with Mollie, and you bring--"
"Oh," replied Rita hesitatingly, "I am sorry you have gone to so much
"No trouble, my dear," Mrs. Sin assured her. "Just a little matter of
business, and you can pay the bill when it suits you."
"I am frightfully excited!" cried Mollie Gretna. "It is so nice of you
to have asked me to join your party. Of course Cy goes practically
every week, but I have always wanted another girl to go with. Oh, I
shall be in a perfectly delicious panic when I find myself all among
funny Chinamen and things! I think there is something so magnificently
wicked-looking about a pigtail--and the very name of Limehouse thrills
me to the soul!"
That fixity of purpose which had enabled Rita to avoid the cunning
snares set for her feet and to snatch triumph from the very cauldron
of shame without burning her fingers availed her not at all in dealing
with Mrs. Sin. The image of Monte receded before this appeal to the
secret pleasure-loving woman, of insatiable curiosity, primitive and
unmoral, who dwells, according to a modern cynic philosopher, within
every daughter of Eve touched by the fire of genius.
She accepted the arrangement for Saturday, and before her visitors had
left the dressing-room her mind was busy with plausible deceits to
cover the sojourn in Chinatown. Something of Mollie Gretna's foolish
enthusiasm had communicated itself to Rita.
Later in the evening Sir Lucien called, and on hearing of the scheme
grew silent. Rita glancing at his reflection in the mirror, detected a
black and angry look upon his face. She turned to him.
"Why, Lucy," she said, "don't you want me to go?"
He smiled in his sardonic fashion.
"Your wishes are mine, Rita," he replied.
She was watching him closely.
"But you don't seem keen," she persisted. "Are you angry with me?"
"We are still friends, aren't we?"
"Of course. Do you doubt my friendship?"
Rita's maid came in to assist her in changing for the third act, and
Pyne went out of the room. But, in spite of his assurances, Rita could
not forget that fierce, almost savage expression which had appeared
upon his face when she had told him of Mrs. Sin's visit.
Later she taxed him on the point, but he suffered her inquiry with
imperturbable sangfroid, and she found herself no wiser respecting the
cause of his annoyance. Painful twinges of conscience came during the
ensuing days, when she found herself in her fiance's company, but she
never once seriously contemplated dropping the acquaintance of Mrs.
She thought, vaguely, as she had many times thought before, of cutting
adrift from the entire clique, but there was no return of that sincere
emotional desire to reform which she had experienced on the day that
Monte Irvin had taken her hand, in blind trust, and had asked her to
be his wife. Had she analyzed, or been capable of analyzing, her
intentions with regard to the future, she would have learned that
daily they inclined more and more towards compromise. The drug habit
was sapping will and weakening morale, insidiously, imperceptibly. She
was caught in a current of that "sacred river" seen in an opium-trance
by Coleridge, and which ran--
"Through caverns measureless to man Down to a sunless sea."
Pyne's big car was at the stage-door on the fateful Saturday night,
for Rita had brought her dressing-case to the theatre, and having
called for Kilfane and Mollie Gretna they were to proceed direct to
Rita, as she entered the car, noticed that Juan Mareno, Sir Lucien's
man, and not the chauffeur with whom she was acquainted, sat at the
wheel. As they drove off:
"Why is Mareno driving tonight, Lucy?" she asked.
Sir Lucien glanced aside at her.
"He is in my confidence," he replied. "Fraser is not."
"Oh, I see. You don't want Fraser to know about the Limehouse
"Naturally I don't. He would talk to all the men at the garage, and
from South Audleystreet the tit-bit of scandal would percolate through
every stratum of society."
Rita was silent for a few moments, then:
"Were you thinking about Monte?" she asked diffidently.
"He would scarcely approve, would he?"
"No," replied Rita. "Was that why you were angry when I told you I was
"This 'anger,' to which you constantly revert, had no existence
outside your own imagination, Rita. But" he hesitated--"you will have
to consider your position, dear, now that you are the future Mrs.
Monte." Rita felt her cheeks flush, and she did not reply immediately.
"I don't understand you, Lucy," she declared at last. "How odd you
"Am I? Well, never mind. We will talk about my eccentricity later.
Here is Cyrus."
Kilfane was standing in the entrance to the stage door of the theatre
at which he was playing. As the car drew up he lifted two leather
grips on to the step, and Mareno, descending, took charge of them.
"Come along, Mollie," said Kilfane, looking back.
Miss Gretna, very excited, ran out and got into the car beside Rita.
Pyne lowered two of the collapsible seats for Kilfane and himself, and
the party set out for Limehouse.
"Oh!" cried the fair-haired Mollie, grasping Rita's hand, "my heart
began palpitating with excitement the moment I woke up this morning!
How calm you are, dear."
"I am only calm outside," laughed Rita.
The joie de vivre and apparently unimpaired vitality, of this woman,
for whom (if half that which rumor whispered were true) vice had no
secrets, astonished Rita. Her physical resources were unusual, no
doubt, because the demand made upon them by her mental activities was
As the car sped along the Strand, where theatre-goers might still be
seen making for tube, omnibus, and tramcar, and entered Fleet Street,
where the car and taxicab traffic was less, a mutual silence fell upon
the party. Two at least of the travellers were watching the lighted
windows of the great newspaper offices with a vague sense of
foreboding, and thinking how, bound upon a secret purpose, they were
passing along the avenue of publicity. It is well that man lacks
prescience. Neither Rita nor Sir Lucien could divine that a day was
shortly to come when the hidden presses which throbbed about them that
night should be busy with the story of the murder of one and
disappearance of the other.
Around St. Paul's Churchyard whirled the car, its engine running
strongly and almost noiselessly. The great bell of St. Paul's boomed
out the half-hour.
"Oh!" cried Mollie Gretna, "how that made me jump! What a beautifully
Kilfane murmured some inaudible reply, but neither Pyne nor Rita
Cornhill and Leadenhall Street, along which presently their route lay,
offered a prospect of lamp-lighted emptiness, but at Aldgate they
found themselves amid East End throngs which afforded a marked
contrast to those crowding theatreland; and from thence through
Whitechapel and the seemingly endless Commercial Road it was a
different world into which they had penetrated.
Rita hitherto had never seen the East End on a Saturday night, and the
spectacle afforded by these busy marts, lighted by naphtha flames, in
whose smoky glare Jews and Jewesses, Poles, Swedes, Easterns, dagoes,
and halfcastes moved feverishly, was a fascinating one. She thought
how utterly alien they were, the men and women of a world unknown to
that society upon whose borders she dwelled; she wondered how they
lived, where they lived, why they lived. The wet pavements were
crowded with nondescript humanity, the night was filled with the
unmusical voices of Hebrew hucksters, and the air laden with the smoky
odor of their lamps. Tramcars and motorbuses were packed unwholesomely
with these children of shadowland drawn together from the seven seas
by the magnet of London.
She glanced at Pyne, but he was seemingly lost in abstraction, and
Kilfane appeared to be asleep. Mollie Gretna was staring eagerly out
on the opposite side of the car at a group of three dago sailors, whom
Mareno had nearly run down, but she turned at that moment and caught
"Don't you simply love it!" she cried. "Some of those men were really
handsome, dear. If they would only wash I am sure I could adore them!"
"Even such charms as yours can be bought at too high a price,"'
drawled Sir Lucien. "They would gladly do murder for you, but never
Crossing Limehouse Canal, the car swung to the right into West India
Dock Road. The uproar of the commercial thoroughfare was left far
behind. Dark, narrow streets and sinister-looking alleys lay right and
left of them, and into one of the narrowest and least inviting of all
Mareno turned the car.
In the dimly-lighted doorway of a corner house the figure of a
Chinaman showed as a motionless silhouette.
"Oh!" sighed Mollie Gretna rapturously, "a Chinaman! I begin to feel
The car came to a standstill.
"We get out here and walk," said Sir Lucien. "It would not be wise to
drive further. Mareno will deliver our baggage by hand presently."
"But we shall all be murdered," cried Mollie, "murdered in cold blood!
I am dreadfully frightened!"
"Something of the kind is quite likely," drawled Sir Lucien, "if you
draw attention to our presence in the neighborhood so deliberately.
Walk ahead, Kilfane, with Mollie. Rita and I will follow at a discreet
distance. Leave the door ajar."
Temporarily subdued by Pyne's icy manner, Miss Gretna became silent,
and went on ahead with Cyrus Kilfane, who had preserved an almost
unbroken silence throughout the journey. Rita and Sir Lucien followed
"What a creepy neighborhood," whispered Rita. "Look! Someone is
standing in that doorway over there, watching us."
"Take no notice," he replied. "A cat could not pass along this street
unobserved by the Chinese, but they will not interfere with us
provided we do not interfere with them."
Kilfane had turned to the right into a narrow court, at the entrance
to which stood an iron pillar. As he and his companion passed under
the lamp in a rusty bracket which projected from the wall, they
vanished into a place of shadows. There was a ceaseless chorus of
distant machinery, and above it rose the grinding and rattling solo of
a steam winch. Once a siren hooted apparently quite near them, and
looking upward at a tangled, indeterminable mass which overhung the
street at this point, Rita suddenly recognized it for a ship's
"Why," she said, "we are right on the bank of the river!"
"Not quite," answered Pyne. "We are skirting a dock basin. We are
nearly at our destination."
Passing in turn under the lamp, they entered the narrow court, and
from a doorway immediately on the left a faint light shone out upon
the wet pavement. Pyne pushed the door fully open and held it for Rita
to enter. As she did so:
"Hello! hello!" croaked a harsh voice. "Number one p'lice chop, lo!
Sin Sin Wa!"
The uncanny cracked voice proceeded to give an excellent imitation of
a police whistle, and concluded with that of the clicking of
"Shut the door, Lucy," came the murmurous tones of Kilfane from the
gloom of the stuffy little room, in the centre of which stood a stove
wherefrom had proceeded the dim light shining out upon the pavement.
"Light up, Sin Sin."
"Sin Sin Wa! Sin Sin Wa!" shrieked the voice, and again came the
rattling of imaginary castanets. "Smartest leg in Buenos Ayres--Buenos
Ayres--p'lice chop--p'lice chop, lo!"
"Oh," whispered Mollie Gretna, in the darkness, "I believe I am going
Pyne closed the door, and a dimly discernible figure on the opposite
side of the room stooped and opened a little cupboard in which was a
lighted ship's lantern. The lantern being lifted out and set upon a
rough table near the stove, it became possible to view the apartment
and its occupants.
It was a small, low-ceiled place, having two doors, one opening upon
the street and the other upon a narrow, uncarpeted passage. The window
was boarded up. The ceiling had once been whitewashed and a few limp,
dark fragments of paper still adhering to the walls proved that some
forgotten decorator had exercised his art upon them in the past. A
piece of well-worn matting lay upon the floor, and there were two
chairs, a table, and a number of empty tea-chests in the room.
Upon one of the tea-chests placed beside the cupboard which had
contained the lantern a Chinaman was seated. His skin was of so light
a yellow color as to approximate to dirty white, and his face was
pock-marked from neck to crown. He wore long, snake-like moustaches,
which hung down below his chin. They grew from the extreme outer edges
of his upper lip, the centre of which, usually the most hirsute, was
hairless as the lip of an infant. He possessed the longest and
thickest pigtail which could possibly grow upon a human scalp, and his
left eye was permanently closed, so that a smile which adorned his
extraordinary countenance seemed to lack the sympathy of his surviving
eye, which, oblique, beady, held no mirth in its glittering depths.
The garments of the one-eyed Chinaman, who sat complacently smiling at
the visitors, consisted of a loose blouse, blue trousers tucked into
grey socks, and a pair of those native, thick-soled slippers which
suggest to a Western critic the acme of discomfort. A raven, black as
a bird of ebony, perched upon the Chinaman's shoulder, head a-tilt,
surveying the newcomers with a beady, glittering left eye which
strangely resembled the beady, glittering right eye of the Chinaman.
For, singular, uncanny circumstance, this was a one-eyed raven which
sat upon the shoulder of his one-eyed master!
Mollie Gretna uttered a stifled cry. "Oh!" she whispered. "I knew I
was going to scream!"
The eye of Sin Sin Wa turned momentarily in her direction, but
otherwise he did not stir a muscle.
"Are you ready for us, Sin?" asked Sir Lucien.
"All ready. Lola hate gotchee topside loom ready," replied the
Chinaman in a soft, crooning voice.
"Go ahead, Kilfane," directed Sir Lucien.
He glanced at Rita, who was standing very near him, surveying the evil
little room and its owner with ill-concealed disgust.
"This is merely the foyer, Rita," he said, smiling slightly. "The
state apartments are upstairs and in the adjoining house."
"Oh," she murmured--and no more.
Kilfane and Mollie Gretna were passing through the inner doorway, and
"Isn't it loathsomely delightful?" she cried.
"Smartest leg in Buenos Ayres!" shrieked the raven. "Sin Sin, Sin
Uttering a frightened exclamation, Mollie disappeared along the
passage. Sir Lucien indicated to Rita that she was to follow; and he,
passing through last of the party, closed the door behind him.
Sin Sin Wa never moved, and the raven, settling down upon the
Chinaman's shoulder, closed his serviceable eye.
THE BLACK SMOKE
Up an uncarpeted stair Cyrus Kilfane led the party, and into a kind of
lumber-room lighted by a tin oil lamp and filled to overflowing with
heterogeneous and unsavory rubbish. Here were garments, male and
female, no less than five dilapidated bowler hats, more tea-chests,
broken lamps, tattered fragments of cocoanut-matting, steel bed-laths
and straw mattresses, ruins of chairs--the whole diffusing an
indescribably unpleasant odor.
Opening a cupboard door, Kilfane revealed a number of pendent, ragged
garments, and two more bowler hats. Holding the garments aside, he
banged upon the back of the cupboard--three blows, a pause, and then
Following a brief interval, during which even Mollie Gretna was held
silent by the strangeness of the proceedings,
"Who is it?" inquired a muffled voice.
"Cy and the crowd," answered Kilfane.
Thereupon ensued a grating noise, and hats and garments swung suddenly
backward, revealing a doorway in which Mrs. Sin stood framed. She wore
a Japanese kimona of embroidered green silk and a pair of green and
gold brocaded slippers which possessed higher heels than Rita
remembered to have seen even Mrs. Sin mounted upon before. Her ankles
were bare, and it was impossible to determine in what manner she was
clad beneath the kimona. Undoubtedly she had a certain dark beauty, of
a bold, abandoned type.
"Come right in," she directed. "Mind your head, Lucy."
The quartette filed through into a carpeted corridor, and Mrs. Sin
reclosed the false back of the cupboard, which, viewed from the other
side, proved to be a door fitted into a recess in the corridor of the
adjoining house. This recess ceased to exist when a second and heavier
door was closed upon the first.
"You know," murmured Kilfane, "old Sin Sin has his uses, Lola. Those
doors are perfectly made."
"Pooh!" scoffed the woman, with a flash of her dark eyes; "he is half
a ship's carpenter and half an ape!"
She moved along the passage, her arm linked in that of Sir Lucien. The
others followed, and:
"Is she truly married to that dreadful Chinaman?" whispered Mollie
"Yes, I believe so," murmured Kilfane. "She is known as Mrs. Sin Sin
"Oh!" Mollie's eyes opened widely. "I almost envy her! I have read
that Chinamen tie their wives to beams in the roof and lash them with
leather thongs until they swoon. I could die for a man who lashed me
with leather thongs. Englishmen are so ridiculously gentle to women."
Opening a door on the left of the corridor, Mrs. Sin displayed a room
screened off into three sections. One shaded lamp high up near the
ceiling served to light all the cubicles, which were heated by small
charcoal stoves. These cubicles were identical in shape and
appointment, each being draped with quaint Chinese tapestry and
containing rugs, a silken divan, an armchair, and a low, Eastern
"Choose for yourself," said Mrs. Sin, turning to Rita and Mollie
Gretna. "Nobody else come tonight. You two in this room, eh? Next door
each other for company."
She withdrew, leaving the two girls together. Mollie clasped her hands
"Oh, my dear!" she said. "What do you think of it all?"
"Well," confessed Rita, looking about her, "personally I feel rather
"My dear!" cried Mollie. "I am simply quivering with delicious
Rita became silent again, looking about her, and listening. The harsh
voice of the Cuban-Jewess could be heard from a neighboring room, but
otherwise a perfect stillness reigned in the house of Sin Sin Wa. She
remembered that Mrs. Sin had said, "It is quiet--so quiet."
"The idea of undressing and reclining on these divans in real oriental
fashion," declared Mollie, giggling, "makes me feel that I am an
odalisque already. I have dreamed that I was an odalisque, dear--after
smoking, you know. It was heavenly. At least, I don't know that
'heavenly' is quite the right word."
And now that evil spirit of abandonment came to Rita--communicated to
her, possibly, by her companion. Dread, together with a certain sense
of moral reluctance, departed, and she began to enjoy the adventure at
last. It was as though something in the faintly perfumed atmosphere of
the place had entered into her blood, driving out reserve and stifling
When Sir Lucien reappeared she ran to him excitedly, her charming face
flushed and her eyes sparkling.
"Oh, Lucy," she cried, "how long will our things be? I'm keen to
His jaw hardened, and when he spoke it was with a drawl more marked
"Mareno will be here almost immediately," he answered.
The tone constituted a rebuff, and Rita's coquetry deserted her,
leaving her mortified and piqued. She stared at Pyne, biting her lip.
"You don't like me tonight," she declared. "if I look ugly, it's your
fault; you told me to wear this horrid old costume!"
He laughed in a forced, unnatural way.
"You are quite well aware that you could never look otherwise than
maddeningly beautiful," he said harshly. "Do you want me to recall the
fact to you again that you are shortly to be Monte Irvin's wife--or
should you prefer me to remind you that you have declined to be mine?"
Turning slowly, he walked away, but:
"Oh, Lucy!" whispered Rita.
He paused, looking back.
"I know now why you didn't want me to come," she said. "I--I'm sorry."
The hard look left Sir Lucien's face immediately and was replaced by a
curious, indefinable expression, an expression which rarely appeared
"You only know half the reason," he replied softly.
At that moment Mrs. Sin came in, followed by Mareno carrying two
dressing-cases. Mollie Gretna had run off to Kilfane, and could be
heard talking loudly in another room; but, called by Mrs. Sin, she now
returned, wide-eyed with excitement.
Mrs. Sin cast a lightning glance at Sir Lucien, and then addressed
"Which of these three rooms you choose?" she asked, revealing her
teeth in one of those rapid smiles which were mirthless as the eternal
smile of Sin Sin Wa.
"Oh," said Rita hurriedly, "I don't know. Which do you want, Mollie?"
"I love this end one!" cried Mollie. "It has cushions which simply
reek of oriental voluptuousness and cruelty. It reminds me of a
delicious book I have been reading called Musk, Hashish, and Blood."
"Hashish!" said Mrs. Sin, and laughed harshly. "One night you shall
eat the hashish, and then--"
She snapped her fingers, glancing from Rita to Pyne.
"Oh, really? Is that a promise?" asked Mollie eagerly.
"No, no!" answered Mrs. Sin. "It is a threat!"
Something in the tone of her voice as she uttered the last four words
in mock dramatic fashion caused Mollie and Rita to stare at one
another questioningly. That suddenly altered tone had awakened an
elusive memory, but neither of them could succeed in identifying it.
Mareno, a lean, swarthy fellow, his foreign cast of countenance
accentuated by close-cut side-whiskers, deposited Miss Gretna's case
in the cubicle which she had selected and, Rita pointing to that
adjoining it, he disposed the second case beside the divan and
departed silently. As the sound of a closing door reached them:
"You notice how quiet it is?" asked Mrs. Sin.
"Yes," replied Rita. "It is extraordinarily quiet."
"This an empty house--'To let,'" explained Mrs. Sin. "We watch it stay
so. Sin the landlord, see? Windows all boarded up and everything
padded. No sound outside, no sound inside. Sin call it the 'House of a
Hundred Raptures,' after the one he have in Buenos Ayres."
The voice of Cyrus Kilfane came, querulous, from a neighboring room.
"Lola, my dear, I am almost ready."
"Ho!" Mrs. Sin uttered a deep-toned laugh. "He is a glutton for
chandu! I am coming, Cy."
She turned and went out. Sir Lucien paused for a moment, permitting
her to pass, and:
"Good night, Rita," he said in a low voice. "Happy dreams!"
He moved away.
"Lucy!" called Rita softly.
"Is it--is it really safe here?"
Pyne glanced over his shoulder towards the retreating figure of Mrs.
"I shall be awake," he replied. "I would rather you had not come, but
since you are here you must go through with it." He glanced again
along the narrow passage created by the presence of the partitions,
and spoke in a voice lower yet. "You have never really trusted me,
Rita. You were wise. But you can trust me now. Good night, dear."
He walked out of the room and along the carpeted corridor to a little
apartment at the back of the house, furnished comfortably but in
execrably bad taste. A cheerful fire was burning in the grate, the
flue of which had been ingeniously diverted by Sin Sin Wa so that the
smoke issued from a chimney of the adjoining premises. On the
mantelshelf, which was garishly draped, were a number of photographs
of Mrs. Sin in Spanish dancing costume.
Pyne seated himself in an armchair and lighted a cigarette. Except for
the ticking of a clock the room was silent as a padded cell. Upon a
little Moorish table beside a deep, low settee lay a complete opium-
Lolling back in the chair and crossing his legs, Sir Lucien became
lost in abstraction, and he was thus seated when, some ten minutes
later, Mrs. Sin came in.
"Ah!" she said, her harsh voice softened to a whisper. "I wondered. So
you wait to smoke with me?" Pyne slowly turned his head, staring at
her as she stood in the doorway, one hand resting on her hip and her
shapely figure boldly outlined by the kimono.
"No," he replied. "I don't want to smoke. Are they all provided for?"
Mrs. Sin shook her head.
"Not Cy," she said. "Two pipes are nothing to him. He will need two
more--perhaps three. But you are not going to smoke?"
"Not tonight, Lola."
She frowned, and was about to speak, when:
"Lola, my dear," came a distant, querulous murmur. "Give me another
Sin tossed her head, turned, and went out again. Sir Lucien lighted
another cigarette. When finally the woman came back, Cyrus Kilfane had
presumably attained the opium-smoker's paradise, for Lola closed the
door and seated herself upon the arm of Sir Lucien's chair. She bent
down, resting her dusky cheek against his.
"You smoke with me?" she whispered coaxingly.
"No, Lola, not tonight," he said, patting her jewel-laden hand and
looking aside into the dark eyes which were watching him intently.
Mrs. Sin became silent for a few moments.
"Something has changed in you," she said at last. "You are different--
"Indeed!" drawled Sir Lucien. "Possibly you are right. Others have
said the same thing."
"You have lots of money now. Your investments have been good. You want
to become respectable, eh?"
Pyne smiled sardonically.
"Respectability is a question of appearance," he replied. "The change
to which you refer would seem to go deeper."
"Very likely," murmured Mrs. Sin. "I know why you don't smoke. You
have promised your pretty little friend that you will stay awake and
see that nobody tries to cut her sweet white throat."
Sir Lucien listened imperturbably.
"She is certainly nervous," he admitted coolly. "I may add that I am
sorry I brought her here."
"Oh," said Mrs. Sin, her voice rising half a note. "Then why do you
bring her to the House?"
"She made the arrangement herself, and I took the easier path. I am
considering your interests as much as my own, Lola. She is about to
marry Monte Irvin, and if his suspicions were aroused he is quite
capable of digging down to the 'Hundred Raptures.'"
"You brought her to Kazmah's."
"She was not at that time engaged to Irvin."
"Ah, I see. And now everybody says you are changed. Yes, she is a
Pyne looked up into the half-veiled dark eyes.
"She never has been and never can be any more to me, Lola," he said.
At those words, designed to placate, the fire which smouldered in
Lola's breast burst into sudden flame. She leapt to her feet,
confronting Sir Lucien.
"I know! I know!" she cried harshly. "Do you think I am blind? If she
had been like any of the others, do you suppose it would have mattered
to me? But you respect her--you respect her!"
Eyes blazing and hands clenched, she stood before him, a woman mad
with jealousy, not of a successful rival but of a respected one. She
quivered with passion, and Pyne, perceiving his mistake too late, only
preserved his wonted composure by dint of a great effort. He grasped
Lola and drew her down on to the arm of the chair by sheer force, for
she resisted savagely. His ready wit had been at work, and:
"What a little spitfire you are," he said, firmly grasping her arms,
which felt rigid to the touch. "Surely you can understand? Rita amused
me, at first. Then, when I found she was going to marry Monte Irvin I
didn't bother about her any more. In fact, because I like and admire
Irvin, I tried to keep her away from the dope. We don't want trouble
with a man of that type, who has all sorts of influence. Besides,
Monte Irvin is a good fellow."
Gradually, as he spoke, the rigid arms relaxed and the lithe body
ceased to quiver. Finally, Lola sank back against his shoulder,
"I don't believe you," she whispered. "You are telling me lies. But
you have always told me lies; one more does not matter, I suppose. How
strong you are. You have hurt my wrists. You will smoke with me now?"
For a moment Pyne hesitated, then:
"Very well," he said. "Go and lie down. I will roast the chandu."
THE DREAM OF SIN SIN WA
For a habitual opium-smoker to abstain when the fumes of chandu
actually reach his nostrils is a feat of will-power difficult
adequately to appraise. An ordinary tobacco smoker cannot remain for
long among those who are enjoying the fragrant weed without catching
the infection and beginning to smoke also. Twice to redouble the lure
of my lady Nicotine would be but loosely to estimate the seductiveness
of the Spirit of the Poppy; yet Sir Lucien Pyne smoked one pipe with
Mrs. Sin, and perceiving her to be already in a state of dreamy
abstraction, loaded a second, but in his own case with a fragment of
cigarette stump which smouldered in a tray upon the table. His was
that rare type of character whose possessor remains master of his
Following the fourth pipe--Pyne, after the second, had ceased to
trouble to repeat his feat of legerdemain, "The sleep" claimed Mrs.
Sin. Her languorous eyes closed, and her face assumed that rapt
expression of Buddha-like beatitude which Rita had observed at
Kilfane's flat. According to some scientific works on the subject,
sleep is not invariably induced in the case of Europeans by the use of
chandu. Loosely, this is true. But this type of European never becomes
an habitue; the habitue always sleeps. That dream-world to which opium
alone holds the key becomes the real world "for the delights of which
the smoker gladly resigns all mundane interests." The exiled Chinaman
returns again to the sampan of his boyhood, floating joyously on the
waters of some willow-lined canal; the Malay hears once more the
mystic whispering in the mangrove swamps, or scents the fragrance of
nutmeg and cinnamon in the far-off golden Chersonese. Mrs. Sin
doubtless lived anew the triumphs of earlier days in Buenos Ayres,
when she had been La Belle Lola, the greatly beloved, and before she
had met and married Sin Sin Wa. Gives much, but claims all, and he who
would open the poppy-gates must close the door of ambition and bid
farewell to manhood.
Sir Lucien stood looking at the woman, and although one pipe had
affected him but slightly, his imagination momentarily ran riot and a
pageant of his life swept before him, so that his jaw grew hard and
grim and he clenched his hands convulsively. An unbroken stillness
prevailed in the opium-house of Sin Sin Wa.
Recovering from his fit of abstraction, Pyne, casting a final keen
glance at the sleeper, walked out of the room. He looked along the
carpeted corridor in the direction of the cubicles, paused, and then
opened the heavy door masking the recess behind the cupboard. Next
opening the false back of the cupboard, he passed through to the
lumber-room beyond, and partly closed the second door.
He descended the stair and went along the passage; but ere he reached
the door of the room on the ground floor:
"Hello! hello! Sin Sin! Sin Sin Wa!" croaked the raven. "Number one
p'lice chop, lo!" The note of a police whistle followed, rendered with
Pyne entered the room. It presented the same aspect as when he had
left it. The ship's lantern stood upon the table, and Sin Sin Wa sat
upon the tea-chest, the great black bird perched on his shoulder. The
fire in the stove had burned lower, and its downcast glow revealed
less mercilessly the dirty condition of the floor. Otherwise no one,
nothing, seemed to have been disturbed. Pyne leaned against the
doorpost, taking out and lighting a cigarette. The eye of Sin Sin Wa
glanced sideways at him.
"Well, Sin Sin," said Sir Lucien, dropping a match and extinguishing
it under his foot, "you see I am not smoking tonight."
"No smokee," murmured the Chinaman. "Velly good stuff."
"Yes, the stuff is all right, Sin."
"Number one proper," crooned Sin Sin Wa, and relapsed into smiling
"Number one p'lice," croaked the raven sleepily "Smartest--" He even
attempted the castanets imitation, but was overcome by drowsiness.
For a while Sir Lucien stood watching the singular pair and smiling in
his ironical fashion. The motive which had prompted him to leave the
neighboring house and to seek the companionship of Sin Sin Wa was so
obscure and belonged so peculiarly to the superdelicacies of chivalry,
that already he was laughing at himself. But, nevertheless, in this
house and not in its secret annex of a Hundred Raptures he designed to
spend the night. Presently:
"Hon'lable p'lice patrol come 'long plenty soon," murmured Sin Sin Wa.
"Indeed?" said Sir Lucien, glancing at his wristwatch. "The door is
Sin Sin Wa raised one yellow forefinger, without moving either hand
from the knee upon which it rested, and shook it slightly to and fro.
"Allee lightee," he murmured. "No bhobbery. Allee peaceful fellers."
"Will they want to come in?"
"Wantchee dlink," replied Sin Sin Wa.
"Oh, I see. If I go out into the passage it will be all right?"
Even as he softly crooned the words came a heavy squelch of rubbers
upon the wet pavement outside, followed by a rapping on the door. Sin
Sin Wa glanced aside at Sir Lucien, and the latter immediately
withdrew, partly closing the door. The Chinaman shuffled across and
admitted two constables. The raven, remaining perched upon his
shoulder, shrieked, "Smartest leg in Buenos Ayres," and, fully
awakened, rattled invisible castanets.
The police strode into the stuffy little room without ceremony, a pair
of burly fellows, fresh-complexioned, and genial as men are wont to be
who have reached a welcome resting-place on a damp and cheerless
night. They stood by the stove, warming their hands; and one of them
stooped, took up the little poker, and stirred the embers to a
"Been havin' a pipe, Sin?" he asked, winking at his companion. "I can
smell something like opium!"
"No smokee opium," murmured Sin Sin Wa complacently. "Smokee
"Ho, ho!" laughed the other constable. "I don't think."
"You likee tly one piecee pipee one time?" inquired the Chinaman.
"Gotchee fliend makee smokee."
The man who had poked the fire slapped his companion on the back.
"Now's your chance, Jim!" he cried. "You always said you'd like to
have a cut at it."
"H'm!" muttered the other. "A 'double' o' that fifteen over-proof
Jamaica of yours, Sin, would hit me in a tender spot tonight."
"Lum?" murmured Sin Sin blandly. "No hate got."
He resumed his seat on the tea-chest, and the raven muttered sleepily,
"H'm!" repeated the constable.
He raised the skirt of his heavy top-coat, and from his trouser-pocket
drew out a leather purse. The eye of Sin Sin Wa remained fixed upon a
distant corner of the room. From the purse the constable took a
shilling, ringing it loudly upon the table.
"Double rum, miss, please!" he said, facetiously. "There's no treason
allowed nowadays, so my pal's--"
"I stood yours last night Jim, anyway!" cried the other, grinning. "Go
on, stump up!"
Jim rang a second shilling on the table.
"Two double rums!" he called.
Sin Sin Wa reached a long arm into the little cupboard beside him and
withdrew a bottle and a glass. Leaning forward he placed bottle and
glass on the table, and adroitly swept the coins into his yellow palm.
"Number one p'lice chop," croaked the raven.
"You're right, old bird!" said Jim, pouring out a stiff peg of the
spirit and disposing of it at a draught. "We should freeze to death on
this blasted riverside beat if it wasn't for Sin Sin."
He measured out a second portion for his companion, and the latter
drank the raw spirit off as though it had been ale, replaced the glass
on the table, and having adjusted his belt and lantern in that
characteristic way which belongs exclusively to members of the
Metropolitan Police Force, turned and departed.
"Good night, Sin," he said, opening the door.
"So-long," murmured the Chinaman.
"Good night, old bird," cried Jim, following his colleague.
The door closed, and Sin Sin Wa, shuffling across, rebolted it. As Sir
Lucien came out from his hiding-place Sin Sin Wa returned to his seat
on the tea-chest, first putting the glass, unwashed, and the rum
bottle back in the cupboard.
To the ordinary observer the Chinaman presents an inscrutable mystery.
His seemingly unemotional character and his racial inability to
express his thoughts intelligibly in any European tongue stamp him as
a creature apart, and one whom many are prone erroneously to classify
very low in the human scale and not far above the ape. Sir Lucien
usually spoke to Sin Sin Wa in English, and the other replied in that
weird jargon known as "pidgin." But the silly Sin Wa who murmured
gibberish and the Sin Sin Wa who could converse upon many and curious
subjects in his own language were two different beings--as Sir Lucien
was aware. Now, as the one-eyed Chinaman resumed his seat and the one-
eyed raven sank into slumber, Pyne suddenly spoke in Chinese, a tongue
which he understood as it is understood by few Englishmen; that
strange, sibilant speech which is alien from all Western conceptions
of oral intercourse as the Chinese institutions and ideals are alien
from those of the rest of the civilized world.
"So you make a profit on your rum, Sin Sin Wa," he said ironically,
"at the same time that you keep in the good graces of the police?"
Sin Sin Wa's expression underwent a subtle change at the sound of his
native language. He moved his hands and became slightly animated.
"A great people of the West, most honorable sir," he replied in the
pure mandarin dialect, "claim credit for having said that 'business is
business.' Yet he who thus expressed himself was a Chinaman."
"You surprise me."
"The wise man must often find occasion for surprise most honorable
Sir Lucien lighted a cigarette.
"I sometimes wonder, Sin Sin Wa," he said slowly, "what your aim in
life can be. Your father was neither a ship's carpenter nor a
shopkeeper. This I know. Your age I do not know and cannot guess, but
you are no longer young. You covet wealth. For what purpose, Sin Sin
Standing behind the Chinaman, Sir Lucien's dark face, since he made no
effort to hide his feelings, revealed the fact that he attached to
this seemingly abstract discussion a greater importance than his tone
of voice might have led one to suppose. Sin Sin Wa remained silent for
some time, then:
"Most honorable sir," he replied, "when I have smoked the opium,
before my eyes--for in dreams I have two--a certain picture arises. It
is that of a farm in the province of Ho-Nan. Beyond the farm stretch
paddy-fields as far as one can see. Men and women and boys and girls
move about the farm, happy in their labors, and far, far away dwell
the mountain gods, who send the great Yellow River sweeping down
through the valleys where the poppy is in bloom. It is to possess that
farm, most honorable sir, and those paddy-fields that I covet wealth."
"And in spite of the opium which you consume, you have never lost
sight of this ideal?"
Sin Sin Wa performed a curious shrugging movement, peculiarly racial.
"A man may not always have the same wife," he replied cryptically.
"The honorable wife who now attends to my requirements, laboring
unselfishly in my miserable house and scorning the love of other men
as she has always done--and as an honorable and upright woman is
expected to do--may one day be gathered to her ancestors. A man never
knows. Or she may leave me. I am not a good husband. It may be that
some little maiden of Ho-Nan, mild-eyed like the musk-deer and modest
and tender, will consent to minister to my old age. Who knows?"
Sir Lucien blew a thick cloud of tobacco smoke into the room, and:
"She will never love you, Sin Sin Wa," he said, almost sadly. "She
will come to your house only to cheat you."
Sin Sin Wa repeated the eloquent shrug.
"We have a saying in Ho-Nan, most honorable sir," he answered, "and it
is this: 'He who has tasted the poppy-cup has nothing to ask of love.'
She will cook for me, this little one, and stroke my brow when I am
weary, and light my pipe. My eye will rest upon her with pleasure. It
is all I ask."
There came a soft rapping on the outer door--three raps, a pause, and
then two raps. The raven opened his beady eye.
"Sin Sin Wa," he croaked, "number one p'lice chop, lo!"
Sin Sin Wa glanced aside at Sir Lucien.
"The traffic. A consignment of opium," he said. "Sam Tuk calls."
Sir Lucien consulted his watch, and:
"I should like to go with you, Sin Sin Wa," he said. "Would it be
safe to leave the house--with the upper door unlocked?"
Sin Sin Wa glanced at him again.
"All are sleeping, most honorable sir?"
"I will lock the room above and the outer door. It is safe."
He raised a yellow hand, and the raven stepped sedately from his
shoulder on to his wrist.
"Come, Tling-a-Ling," crooned Sin Sin Wa, "you go to bed, my little
black friend, and one day you, too, shall see the paddy-fields of
Opening the useful cupboard, he stooped, and in hopped the raven. Sin
Sin Wa closed the cupboard, and stepped out into the passage.
"I will bring you a coat and a cap and scarf," he said. "Your
magnificent apparel would be out of place among the low pigs who wait
in my other disgusting cellar to rob me. Forgive my improper absence
for one moment, most honorable sir."
Sir Lucien came out into the alley wearing a greasy cloth cap pulled
down over his eyes and an old overall, the collar turned up about a
red woollen muffler which enveloped the lower part of his face. The
odor of the outfit was disgusting, but this man's double life had
brought him so frequently in contact with all forms of uncleanness,
including that of the Far East, compared with which the dirt of the
West is hygienic, that he suffered it without complaint.
A Chinese "boy" of indeterminable age, wearing a slop-shop suit and a
cap, was waiting outside the door, and when Sin Sin Wa appeared,
carefully locking up, he muttered something rapidly in his own
Sin Sin Wa made no reply. To his indoor attire he had added a
pea-jacket and a bowler hat; and the oddly assorted trio set off
westward, following the bank of the Thames in the direction of
Limehouse Basin. The narrow, ill-lighted streets were quite deserted,
but from the river and the riverside arose that ceaseless jangle of
industry which belongs to the great port of London. On the Surrey
shore whistles shrieked, and endless moving chains sent up their
monstrous clangor into the night. Human voices sometimes rose above
the din of machinery.
In silence the three pursued their way, crossing inlets and circling
around basins dimly divined, turning to the right into a lane flanked
by high, eyeless walls, and again to the left, finally to emerge
nearly opposite a dilapidated gateway giving access to a small wharf,
on the rickety gates bills were posted announcing, "This Wharf to
Let." The annexed building appeared to be a mere shell. To the right
again they turned, and once more to the left, halting before a
two-story brick house which had apparently been converted into a
barber's shop. In one of the grimy windows were some loose packets of
cigarettes, a soapmaker's advertisement, and a card:
Opening the door with a key which he carried, the boy admitted Sir
Lucien and Sin Sin Wa to the dimly-lighted interior of a room the
pretensions of which to be regarded as a shaving saloon were supported
by the presence of two chairs, a filthy towel, and a broken mug. Sin
Sin Wa shuffled across to another door, and, followed by Sir Lucien,
descended a stone stair to a little cellar apparently intended for
storing coal. A tin lamp stood upon the bottom step.
Removing the lamp from the step, Sin Sin Wa set it on the cellar
floor, which was black with coal dust, then closed and bolted the
door. A heap of nondescript litter lay piled in a corner of the
cellar. This Sin Sin Wa disturbed sufficiently to reveal a movable
slab in the roughly paved floor. It was so ingeniously concealed by
coal dust that one who had sought it unaided must have experienced
great difficulty in detecting it. Furthermore, it could only be raised
in the following manner:
A piece of strong iron wire, which lay among the other litter, was
inserted in a narrow slot, apparently a crack in the stone. About an
inch of the end of the wire being bent outward to form a right angle,
when the seemingly useless piece of scrap-iron had been thrust through
the slab and turned, it formed a handle by means of which the trap
could be raised.
Again Sin Sin Wa took up the lamp, placing it at the brink of the
opening revealed. A pair of wooden steps rested below, and Sir Lucien,
who evidently was no stranger to the establishment, descended
awkwardly, since there was barely room for a big man to pass. He found
himself in the mouth of a low passage, unpaved and shored up with
rough timbers in the manner of a mine-working. Sin Sin Wa followed
with the lamp, drawing the slab down into its place behind him.
Stooping forward and bending his knees, Sir Lucien made his way along
the passage, the Chinaman following. It was of considerable length,
and terminated before a strong door bearing a massive lock. Sin Sin Wa
reached over the stooping figure of Sir Lucien and unfastened the
lock. The two emerged in a kind of dug-out. Part of it had evidently
been in existence before the ingenious Sin Sin Wa had exercised his
skill upon it, and was of solid brickwork and stone-paved; palpably a
storage vault. But it had been altered to suit the Chinaman's purpose,
and one end--that in which the passage came out--was timbered. It
contained a long counter and many shelves; also a large oil-stove and
a number of pots, pans, and queer-looking jars. On the counter stood a
ship's lantern. The shelves were laden with packages and bottles.
Behind the counter sat a venerable and perfectly bald Chinaman. The
only trace of hair upon his countenance grew on the shrunken upper lip
--mere wisps of white down. His skin was shrivelled like that of a
preserved fig, and he wore big horn-rimmed spectacles. He never once
exhibited the slightest evidence of life, and his head and face, and
the horn-rimmed spectacles, might quite easily have passed for those
of an unwrapped mummy. This was Sam Tuk.
Bending over a box upon which rested a canvas-bound package was a
burly seaman engaged in unknotting the twine with which the canvas was
kept in place. As Sin Sin Wa and Sir Lucien came in he looked up,
revealing a red-bearded, ugly face, very puffy under the eyes.
"Wotcher, Sin Sin!" he said gruffly. "Who's your long pal?"
"Friend," murmured Sin Sin Wa complacently. "You gotchee pukka stuff
thisee time, George?"
"I allus brings the pukka stuff!" roared the seaman, ceasing to fumble
with the knots and glaring at Sin Sin Wa. "Wotcher mean--pukka stuff?"
"Gotchee no use for bran," murmured Sin Sin Wa. "Gotchee no use for
tin-tack. Gotchee no use for glue."
"Bran!" roared the man, his glance and pose very menacing. "Tin-tacks
and glue! Who the flamin' 'ell ever tried to sell you glue?"
"Me only wantchee lemindee you," said Sin Sin Wa. "No pidgin."
"George" glared for a moment, breathing heavily; then he stooped and
resumed his task, Sin Sin Wa and Sir Lucien watching him in silence. A
sound of lapping water was faintly audible.
Opening the canvas wrappings, the man began to take out and place upon
the counter a number of reddish balls of "leaf" opium, varying in
weight from about eight ounces to a pound or more.
"H'm!" murmured Sin Sin Wa. "Smyrna stuff."
From a pocket of his pea-jacket he drew a long bodkin, and taking up
one of the largest balls he thrust the bodkin in and then withdrew it,
the steel stained a coffee color. Sin Sin Wa smelled and tasted the
substance adhering to the bodkin, weighed the ball reflectively in his
yellow palm, and then set it aside. He took up a second, whereupon:
"'Alf a mo', guvnor!" cried the seaman furiously. "D'you think I'm
going to wait 'ere while you prods about in all the blasted lot? It's
damn near high tide--I shan't get out. 'Alf time! Savvy? Shove it on
Sin Sin Wa shook his head.
"Too muchee slick. Too muchee bhobbery," he murmured. "Sin Sin Wa
gotchee sabby what him catchee buy or no pidgin."
"What's the game?" inquired George menacingly. "Don't you know a cake
o' Smyrna when you smells it?"
"No sabby lead chop till ploddem withee dipper," explained the
"Lead!" shouted the man. "There ain't no bloody lead in 'em!"
"H'm," murmured Sin Sin Wa smilingly. "So fashion, eh? All velly
He calmly inserted the bodkin in the second cake; seemed to meet with
some obstruction, and laid the ball down upon the counter. From
beneath his jacket he took out a clasp-knife attached to a steel
chain. Undeterred by a savage roar from the purveyor, he cut the
sticky mass in half, and digging his long nails into one of the
halves, brought out two lead shots. He directed a glance of his beady
eye upon the man.
"Bloody liar," he murmured sweetly. "Lobber."
"Who's a robber?" shouted George, his face flushing darkly, and
apparently not resenting the earlier innuendo; "Who's a robber?"
"One sarcee Smyrna feller packee stuff so fashion," murmured Sin Sin
Wa. "Thief-feller lobbee poor sailorman."
George jerked his peaked cap from his head, revealing a tangle of
unkempt red hair. He scratched his skull with savage vigor.
"Blimey!" he said pathetically. "'Ere's a go! I been done brown,
"Lough luck," murmured Sin Sin Wa, and resumed his examination of the
cakes of opium.
The man watched him now in silence, only broken by exclamations of
"Blimey" and "Flaming hell" when more shot was discovered. The tests
"Gotchee some more?" asked Sin Sin Wa.
From the canvas wrapping George took out and tossed on the counter a
square packet wrapped in grease-paper.
"H'm," murmured Sin Sin Wa, "Patna. Where you catchee?"
"Off of a lascar," growled the man.
The cake of Indian opium was submitted to the same careful scrutiny as
that which the balls of Turkish had already undergone, but the Patna
opium proved to be unadulterated. Reaching over the counter Sin Sin Wa
produced a pair of scales, and, watched keenly by George, weighed the
leaf and then the cake.
"Ten-six Smyrna; one 'leben Patna," muttered Sin Sin Wa. "You catchee
"Eh?" roared George. "Eighty quid! Eighty quid! Flamin' blind o'
Riley! D'you think I'm up the pole? Eighty quid? You're barmy!"
"Eighty-ten," murmured Sin Sin Wa. "Eighty jimmies opium; ten bob
"I give more'n that for it!" cried the seaman. "An' I damn near hit a
police boat comin' in, too!"
Sir Lucien spoke a few words rapidly in Chinese. Sin Sin Wa performed
his curious oriental shrug, and taking a fat leather wallet from his
hip-pocket, counted out the sum of eighty-five pounds upon the
"You catchee eighty-five," he murmured. "Too muchee price."
The man grabbed the money and pocketed it without a word of
acknowledgment. He turned and strode along the room, his heavy,
iron-clamped boots ringing on the paved floor.
"Fetch a grim, Sin Sin," he cried. "I'll never get out if I don't jump
Sin Sin Wa took the lantern from the counter and followed. Opening a
door at the further end of the place, he set the lantern at the head
of three descending wooden steps discovered. With the opening of the
door the sound of lapping water had grown perceptibly louder. George
clattered down the steps, which led to a second but much stouter door.
Sin Sin Wa followed, nearly closing the first door, so that only a
faint streak of light crept down to them.
The second door was opened, and the clangor of the Surrey shore
suddenly proclaimed itself. Cold, damp air touched them, and the faint
light of the lantern above cast their shadows over unctuous gliding
water, which lapped the step upon which they stood. Slimy shapes
uprose dim and ghostly from its darkly moving surface.
A boat was swinging from a ring beside the door, and into it George
tumbled. He unhitched the lashings, and strongly thrust the boat out
upon the water. Coming to the first of the dim shapes, he grasped it
and thereby propelled the skiff to another beyond. These indistinct
shapes were the piles supporting the structure of a wharf.
"Good night, guv'nor!" he cried hoarsely
"So-long," muttered Sin Sin Wa.
He waited until the boat was swallowed in the deeper shadows, then
reclosed the water-gate and ascended to the room where Sir Lucien
awaited. Such was the receiving office of Sin Sin Wa. While the wharf
remained untenanted it was not likely to be discovered by the
authorities, for even at low tide the river-door was invisible from
passing craft. Prospective lessees who had taken the trouble to
inquire about the rental had learned that it was so high as to be
Sin Sin Wa paid fair prices and paid cash. This was no more than a
commercial necessity. For those who have opium, cocaine, veronal, or
heroin to sell can always find a ready market in London and elsewhere.
But one sufficiently curious and clever enough to have solved the
riddle of the vacant wharf would have discovered that the mysterious
owner who showed himself so loath to accept reasonable offers for the
property could well afford to be thus independent. Those who control
"the traffic" control El Dorado--a city of gold which, unlike the
fabled Manoa, actually exists and yields its riches to the
Smiling his mirthless, eternal smile, Sin Sin Wa placed the newly
purchased stock upon a shelf immediately behind Sam Tuk; and Sam Tuk
exhibited the first evidence of animation which had escaped him
throughout the progress of the "deal." He slowly nodded his hairless
Rita Dresden married Monte Irvin in the spring and bade farewell to
the stage. The goal long held in view was attained at last. But
another farewell which at one time she had contemplated eagerly no
longer appeared desirable or even possible. To cocamania had been
added a tolerance for opium, and at the last party given by Cyrus
Kilfane she had learned that she could smoke nearly as much opium as
the American habitue.
The altered attitude of Sir Lucien surprised and annoyed her. He, who
had first introduced her to the spirit of the coca leaf and to the
goddess of the poppy, seemed suddenly to have determined to convince
her of the folly of these communions. He only succeeded in losing her
confidence. She twice visited the "House of a Hundred Raptures" with
Mollie Gretna, and once with Mollie and Kilfane, unknown to Sir
Urgent affairs of some kind necessitated his leaving England a few
weeks before the date fixed for Rita's wedding, and as Kilfane had
already returned to America, Rita recognized with a certain dismay
that she would be left to her own resources--handicapped by the
presence of a watchful husband. This subtle change in her view of
Monte Irvin she was incapable of appreciating, for Rita was no
psychologist. But the effect of the drug habit was pointedly
illustrated by the fact that in a period of little more than six
months, from regarding Monte Irvin as a rock of refuge--a chance of
salvation--she had come to regard him in the light of an obstacle to
her indulgence. Not that her respect had diminished. She really loved
at last, and so well that the idea of discovery by this man whose
wholesomeness was the trait of character which most potently attracted
her, was too appalling to be contemplated. The chance of discovery
would be enhanced, she recognized, by the absence of her friends and
Of course she was acquainted with many other devotees. In fact, she
met so many of them that she had grown reconciled to her habits,
believing them to be common to all "smart" people--a part of the
Bohemian life. The truth of the matter was that she had become a
prominent member of a coterie closely knit and associated by a bond of
mutual vice--a kind of masonry whereof Kazmah of Bond Street was Grand
Master and Mrs. Sin Grand Mistress.
The relations existing between Kazmah and his clients were of a most
peculiar nature, too, and must have piqued the curiosity of anyone but
a drug-slave. Having seen him once, in his oracular cave, Rita had
been accepted as one of the initiated. Thereafter she had had no
occasion to interview the strange, immobile Egyptian, nor had she
experienced any desire to do so. The method of obtaining drugs was a
simple one. She had merely to present herself at the establishment in
Bond Street and to purchase either a flask of perfume or a box of
sweetmeats. There were several varieties of perfume, and each
corresponded to a particular drug. The sweetmeats corresponded to
morphine. Rashid, the attendant, knew all Kazmah's clients, and with
the box or flask he gave them a quantity of the required drug. This
scheme was precautionary. For if a visitor should chance to be
challenged on leaving the place, there was the legitimate purchase to
show in evidence of the purpose of the visit.
No conversation was necessary, merely the selection of a scent and the
exchange of a sum of money. Rashid retired to wrap up the purchase,
and with it a second and smaller package was slipped into the
customer's hand. That the prices charged were excessive--nay,
ridiculous--did not concern Rita, for, in common with the rest of her
kind, she was careless of expenditure.
Opium, alone, Kazmah did not sell. He sold morphine, tincture of
opium, and other preparations; but those who sought the solace of the
pipe were compelled to deal with Mrs. Sin. She would arrange parties,
or would prepare the "Hundred Raptures" in Limehouse for visitors;
but, except in the form of opiated cigarettes, she could rarely be
induced to part with any of the precious gum. Thus she cleverly kept a
firm hold upon the devotees of the poppy.
Drug-takers form a kind of brotherhood, and outside the charmed circle
they are secretive as members of the Mafia, the Camorra, or the
In this secrecy, which, indeed, is a recognized symptom of drug mania,
lay Kazmah's security. Rita experienced no desire to peer behind the
veil which, literally and metaphorically, he had placed between
himself and the world. At first she had been vaguely curious, and had
questioned Sir Lucien and others, but nobody seemed to know the real
identity of Kazmah, and nobody seemed to care provided that he
continued to supply drugs. They all led secret, veiled lives, these
slaves of the laboratory, and that Kazmah should do likewise did not
surprise them. He had excellent reasons.
During this early stage of faint curiosity she had suggested to Sir
Lucien that for Kazmah to conduct a dream-reading business seemed to
be to add to the likelihood of police interference.
The baronet had smiled sardonically.
"It is an additional safeguard," he had assured her "It corresponds to
the method of a notorious Paris assassin who was very generally
regarded by the police as a cunning pickpocket. Kazmah's business of
'dreamreading' does not actually come within the Act. He is clever
enough for that. Remember, he does not profess to tell fortunes. It
also enables him to balk idle curiosity."
At the time of her marriage Rita was hopelessly in the toils, and had
been really panic-stricken at the prospect--once so golden--of a
protracted sojourn abroad. The war, which rendered travel impossible,
she regarded rather in the light of a heaven-sent boon. Irvin, though
personally favoring a quiet ceremony, recognized that Rita cherished a
desire to quit theatreland in a chariot of fire, and accordingly the
wedding was on a scale of magnificence which outshone that of any
other celebrated during the season. Even the lugubrious Mr. Esden, who
gave his daughter away, was seen to smile twice. Mrs. Esden moved in a
rarified atmosphere of gratified ambition and parental pride, which no
doubt closely resembled that which the angels breathe.
It was during the early days of her married life, and while Sir Lucien
was still abroad, that Rita began to experience difficulty in
obtaining the drugs which she required. She had lost touch to a
certain extent with her former associates; but she had retained her
maid, Nina, and the girl regularly went to Kazmah's and returned with
the little flasks of perfume. When an accredited representative was
sent upon such a mission, Kazmah dispatched the drugs disguised in a
scent flask; but on each successive occasion that Nina went to him the
prices increased, and finally became so exorbitant that even Rita grew
astonished and dismayed.
She mentioned the matter to another habitue, a lady of title addicted
to the use of the hypodermic syringe, and learned that she (Rita) was
being charged nearly twice as much as her friend.
"I should bring the man to his senses, dear," said her ladyship. "I
know a doctor who will be only too glad to supply you. When I say a
doctor, he is no longer recognized by the B.M.A., but he's none the
less clever and kind for all that."
To the clever and kind medical man Rita repaired on the following day,
bearing a written introduction from her friend. The discredited
physician supplied her for a short time, charging only moderate fees.
Then, suddenly, this second source of supply was closed. The man
declared that he was being watched by the police, and that he dared
not continue to supply her with cocaine and veronal. His shifty eyes
gave the lie to his words, but he was firm in his resolution, whatever
may have led him to it, and Rita was driven back to Kazmah. His
charges had become more exorbitant than ever, but her need was
imperative. Nevertheless, she endeavored to find another drug dealer,
and after a time was again successful.
At a certain supper club she was introduced to a suave little man,
quite palpably an uninterned alien, who smilingly offered to provide
her with any drug to be found in the British Pharmacopeia, at most
moderate charges. With this little German-Jew villain she made a pact,
reflecting that, provided that his wares were of good quality, she had
triumphed over Kazmah.
The craving for chandu seized her sometimes and refused to be
exorcised by morphia, laudanum, or any other form of opium; but she
had not dared to spend a night at the "House of a Hundred Raptures"
since her marriage. Her new German friend volunteered to supply the
necessary gum, outfit, and to provide an apartment where she might
safely indulge in smoking. She declined--at first. But finally, on
Mollie Gretna's return from France, where she had been acting as a
nurse, Rita and Mollie accepted the suave alien's invitation to spend
an evening in his private opium divan.
Many thousands of careers were wrecked by the war, and to the war and
the consequent absence of her husband Rita undoubtedly owed her
relapse into opium-smoking. That she would have continued secretly to
employ cocaine, veronal, and possibly morphine was probable enough;
but the constant society of Monte Irvin must have made it extremely
difficult for her to indulge the craving for chandu. She began to
regret the gaiety of her old life. Loneliness and monotony plunged her
into a state of suicidal depression, and she grasped eagerly at every
promise of excitement.
It was at about this time that she met Margaret Halley, and between
the two, so contrary in disposition, a close friendship arose. The
girl doctor ere long discovered Rita's secret, of course, and the
discovery was hastened by an event which occurred shortly after they
had become acquainted.
The suave alien gentleman disappeared.
That was the entire story in five words--or all of the story that Rita
ever learned. His apartments were labelled "To Let," and the night
clubs knew him no more. Rita for a time was deprived of drugs, and the
nervous collapse which resulted revealed to Margaret Halley's trained
perceptions the truth respecting her friend.
Kazmah's terms proved to be more outrageous than ever, but Rita found
herself again compelled to resort to the Egyptian. She went personally
to the rooms in old Bond Street and arranged with Rashid to see Kazmah
on the following day, Friday, for Kazmah only received visitors by
appointment. As it chanced, Sir Lucien Pyne returned to England on
Thursday night and called upon Rita at Prince's Gate. She welcomed him
as a friend in need, unfolding the pitiful story, to the truth of
which her nervous condition bore eloquent testimony.
Sir Lucien began to pace up and down the charming little room in which
Rita had received him. She watched him, haggard-eyed. Presently:
"Leave Kazmah to me," he said. "If you visit him he will merely shield
himself behind the mystical business, or assure you that he is making
no profit on his sales. Kilfane had similar trouble with him."
"Then you will see him?" asked Rita.
"I will make a point of interviewing him in the morning. Meanwhile, if
you will send Nina around to Albemarle Street in about an hour I will
see what can be done."
"Oh, Lucy," whispered Rita, "what a pal you are."
Sir Lucien smiled in his cold fashion.
"I try to be," he said enigmatically; "but I don't always succeed." He
turned to her. "Have you ever thought of giving up this doping?" he
asked. "Have you ever realized that with increasing tolerance the
quantities must increase as well, and that a day is sure to come
Rita repressed a nervous shudder.
"You are trying to frighten me," she replied. "You have tried before;
I don't know why. But it's no good, Lucy. You know I cannot give it
"You can try."
"I don't want to try!" she cried irritably. "It will be time enough
when Monte is back again, and we can really 'live.' This wretched
existence, with everything restricted and rationed, and all one's
friends in Flanders or Mesopotamia or somewhere, drives me mad! I tell
you I should die, Lucy, if I tried to do without it now."
The hollow presence of reform contemplated in a hazy future did not
deceive Sir Lucien. He suppressed a sigh, and changed the topic of
THE CIGARETTES FROM BUENOS AYRES
Sir Lucien's intervention proved successful. Kazmah's charges became
more modest, and Rita no longer found it necessary to deprive herself
of hats and dresses in order to obtain drugs. But, nevertheless, these
were not the halcyon days of old. She was now surrounded by spies. It
was necessary to resort to all kinds of subterfuge in order to cover
her expenditures at the establishment in old Bond Street. Her husband
never questioned her outlay, but on the other hand it was expedient to
be armed against the possibility of his doing so, and Rita's debts
were accumulating formidably.
Then there was Margaret Halley to consider. Rita had never hitherto
given her confidence to anyone who was not addicted to the same
practices as herself, and she frequently experienced embarrassment
beneath the grave scrutiny of Margaret's watchful eyes. In another
this attitude of gentle disapproval would have been irritating, but
Rita loved and admired Margaret, and suffered accordingly.
As for Sir Lucien, she had ceased to understand him. An impalpable
barrier seemed to have arisen between them. The inner man had became
inaccessible. Her mind was not subtle enough to grasp the real
explanation of this change in her old lover. Being based upon wrong
premises, her inferences were necessarily wide of the truth, and she
believed that Sir Lucien was jealous of Margaret's cousin, Quentin
Gray met Rita at Margaret Halley's flat shortly after he had returned
home from service in the East, and he immediately conceived a violent
infatuation for this pretty friend of his cousin's. In this respect
his conduct was in no way peculiar. Few men were proof against the
seductive Mrs. Monte Irvin, not because she designedly encouraged
admiration, but because she was one of those fortunately rare
characters who inspire it without conscious effort. Her appeal to men
was sweetly feminine and quite lacking in that self-assertive and
masculine "take me or leave me" attitude which characterizes some of
the beauties of today. There was nothing abstract about her delicate
loveliness, yet her charm was not wholly physical. Many women disliked
At dance, theatre, and concert Quentin Gray played the doting
cavalier; and Rita, who was used to at least one such adoring
attendant, accepted his homage without demur. Monte Irvin returned to
civil life, but Rita showed no disposition to dispense with her new
admirer. Both Gray and Sir Lucien had become frequent visitors at
Prince's Gate, and Irvin, who understood his wife's character up to a
point, made them his friends.
Shortly after Monte Irvin's return Sir Lucien taxed Rita again with
her increasing subjection to drugs. She was in a particularly gay
humor, as the supplies from Kazmah had been regular, and she
laughingly fenced with him when he reminded her of her declared
intention to reform when her husband should return.
"You are really as bad as Margaret," she declared. "There is nothing
the matter with me. You talk of 'curing' me as though I were ill.
Physician, heal thyself."
The sardonic smile momentarily showed upon Pyne's face, and:
"I know when and where to pull up, Rita," he said. "A woman never
knows this. If I were deprived of opium tomorrow I could get along
"I have given up opium," replied Rita. "It's too much trouble, and the
last time Mollie and I went--"
She paused, glancing quickly at Sir Lucien.
"Go on," he said grimly. "I know you have been to Sin Sin Wa's. What
happened the last time?"
"Well," continued Rita hurriedly, "Monte seemed to be vaguely
suspicious. Besides, Mrs. Sin charged me most preposterously. I really
cannot afford it, Lucy."
"I am glad you cannot. But what I was about to say was this: Suppose
you were to be deprived, not of 'chard', but of cocaine and veronal,
do you know what would happen to you?"
"Oh!" whispered Rita, "why will you persist in trying to frighten me!
I am not going to be deprived of them."
"I persist, dear, because I want you to try, gradually, to depend less
upon drugs, so that if the worst should happen you would have a
Rita stood up and faced him, biting her lip.
"Lucy," she said, "do you mean that Kazmah--"
"I mean that anything might happen, Rita. After all, we do possess a
police service in London, and one day there might be an accident.
Kazmah has certain influence, but it may be withdrawn. Rita, won't you
She was watching him closely, and now the pupils of her beautiful eyes
"You know something," she said slowly, "which you are keeping from
He laughed and turned aside.
"I know that I am compelled to leave England again, Rita, for a time;
and I should be a happier man if I knew that you were not so utterly
dependent upon Kazmah."
"Oh, Lucy, are you going away again?"
"I must. But I shall not be absent long, I hope."
Rita sank down upon the settee from which she had risen, and was
silent for some time; then:
"I will try, Lucy," she promised. "I will go to Margaret Halley, as
she is always asking me to do."
"Good girl," said Pyne quietly. "It is just a question of making the
effort, Rita. You will succeed, with Margaret's help."
A short time later Sir Lucien left England, but throughout the last
week that he remained in London Rita spent a great part of every day
in his company. She had latterly begun to experience an odd kind of
remorse for her treatment of the inscrutably reserved baronet. His
earlier intentions she had not forgotten, but she had long ago
forgiven them, and now she often felt sorry for this man whom she had
deliberately used as a stepping-stone to fortune.
Gray was quite unable to conceal his jealousy. He seemed to think that
he had a proprietary right to Mrs. Monte Irvin's society, and during
the week preceding Sir Lucien's departure Gray came perilously near to
making himself ridiculous on more than one occasion.
One night, on leaving a theatre, Rita suggested to Pyne that they
should proceed to a supper club for an hour. "It will be like old
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